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Friday, December 20, 2013

A Resurgence Of Electronic Classical Music

Tristan Perich is a composer who builds and programs microchips to make music. (tristanperich.com)

Tristan Perich is a composer who builds and programs microchips to make music. (tristanperich.com)

Electronic sounds created by machines like vocoders, synthesizers and laptops have become pretty standard in popular music, but electronic music is also having a resurgence in new works by classical composers.

Classical composers have worked with electronics since the end of World War II, but the new technologies and people’s growing familiarity with electronically-produced sounds has led to new and interesting works in the classical world.

Composers working with electronic music use a range of devices, from computers — like their pop music counterparts use — to electronic hardware like microchips, in order to produce sound.

Jacob Cooper, a Brooklyn-based composer who makes electronic music, joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to share compositions by his peers who work with electronics.

His picks include works by Daniel Wohl, who processes acoustic instruments through computer software; Tristan Perich, who builds and programs microchips; Paula Matthusen, who creates multimedia installations; and Ted Hearne and Philip White, who collaborate as R We Who R We to recompose pop songs with live electronic manipulation and processing.

While some electronic classical music is experimental and might sound like noise, Cooper says it just takes a little open-mindedness.

“The question of what is music is an age-old question,” Cooper tells Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson. “I like to think of music as any sound that is organized and creates a reaction in the listener, which this certainly does.”

Jacob’s Picks


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  • Expdog

    Not once did they mention the word Electroacoustic. It surprises me how much literature there is on this very topic but is never referenced. In reference to a taxonomy of electronic music I haven’t come across the term “Electronic Classical Music” very often, mostly Mixed-media, Live Electroacoustic Music, Real-Time EA, Music Concrète, Elektronische Musik, Acousmatic, Soundscape, Sound Art etc. They all have loaded histories and are quite tied to the topic of this podcast. Unfortunately “The question of what is music is an age-old question,” tends to revolve around euro-centricism. Maybe we shouldn’t assume that we hold the answer, because so many conclusions are drawn from our own cultural biases, at least when it comes to musical meaning and intention. I may say something’s “music”, but to another culture the word “music” may mean something completely different or may not even exist at all. Many listeners may also be oblivious to the composer’s intentions. Perhaps a composer intended that the audience may not always intend to listen to their composition as is the case with “ambient music”. Music to be listened to or equally ignored as Eno would put it. Edgar Varese once said music was “organized sound”, but isn’t it also important to avoid assuming that all organized sounds are to be considered as music, or at least the same kind of music? For example, Tristan Perich’s installations also engage in a visual art discourse. It would be hard to discuss these works by only using the “western classical” music model for discourse. Also, why should we compare EDM to a symphony when they are engaged in different musicological discussions? It harps to the days of when some modernist composers slammed Jazz in a B.S. high art vs. low art argument. EDM is a kind of music that serves a different purpose. You don’t even have to like it to discuss it within its own discourse. I can easily say that modulated warble bass has maybe been over used by many EDM producers just as the Tierce de Picardie has been over used by Classical Composers. It’s quite different than trying to compare these styles within the same style. I think they should have discussed the various styles of electronic music instead of just lumping many of them into “electronic classical music”.

  • http://bestclassical.musict.net/ Best Classical Music

    the new technologies and people’s growing familiarity with
    electronically-produced sounds has led to new and interesting works in
    the classical world.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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